I spent 4 hours in Emirates' flagship business class lounge, where wealthy travelers sip champagne, get massages, and eat from 5 different restaurants — and it was the best airport lounge I've ever been in
For my 14-hour flight to New York from Dubai, I decided to fly business class for R75,000 operated by Emirates Airlines.
Excited to fly business class for the first time, I got to the airport four hours early so I could experience one of Emirates' legendary business class lounges at Dubai International Airport's Terminal 3, a R62 billion building that is the largest airport terminal in the world.
I visited Emirates Concourse B lounge, which was recently renovated for R153 million.
It features five main dining stations, a champagne bar by Moët & Chandon, a spa, a children's arcade, a Costa Coffee, and seating for 1,500 passengers.
Over the last year, I've visited dozens of airport lounges thanks to Priority Pass. The Emirates lounge blew all of them out of the water.
To say I was excited to fly business class for the first time would be an understatement. Add in the fact that my ticket was with Emirates, rated the fourth best airline in the world, and I was ecstatic.
Determined to get the most out of my experience, I headed to Dubai International Airport four hours early so I could experience one of Emirates' legendary business class lounges.
Over the last year, I've visited dozens of airport lounges thanks to my Priority Pass membership. Some are wonderful, but most are mediocre. Emirates' lounges, which are not open to Priority Pass members (as far as I know), are reputed to be at another level. I was excited to find out if the rumors were true.
My flight was out of DXB's Terminal 3, a R62 billion building considered to be the largest airport terminal in the world and the second largest building in the world, by floor area.
Emirates has six lounges in DXB, three of which are in Terminal 3. Luckily, I was scheduled to fly out of Concourse B, whose lounge was refurbished two and a half years ago for R153 million.
It did not disappoint. Here's what it was like:
My journey with Emirates began at Terminal 3, Dubai International Airport's dedicated Emirates terminal. The R62 billion building is the largest airport terminal in the world and the second largest building in the world, by floor area.
After making it through the dedicated business class and first class entrance, check-in, and security screening, I got into an elevator to take me to the concourse.
Much to my dismay, the elevator did not drop me directly in front of the business class lounge. I'm sure this is intentional.
As is en vogue for most new terminals, Terminal 3 looks more like a luxury mall than an airport. The concourse is lined with duty-free shops, restaurants, and luxury retailers. I didn't even see a gate ...
... though I did see Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo, Armani, Hugo Boss, Hermès, Cartier and Rolex. From a business standpoint, there's no way the designers of Terminal 3 are letting their richest customers avoid the luxury shops.
After getting lost in the maze that is Terminal 3 — and buying a R139 stuffed camel — I finally found the way to the lounge. First, I had to take the escalator to the second floor ...
... and walk past a few more luxury shops (where I got spritzed with a fancy perfume). Then, I saw it.
Before you enter, there's a signboard detailing the many flavors of the world that reside inside. Having been to my fair share of lounges (thanks, Priority Pass!), I wasn't expecting much. Oh, how wrong I was.
There were half a dozen lounge attendants waiting to check in passengers and exactly zero people on line. I panicked for a moment as I tried to decide which smiling attendant I should go to.
After getting checked in, I decided to have a look around. There was a small seating area up front with Rolex clocks for major destinations ...
... and a wall of old-timey photographs referencing great cities of the world.
From the moment you step in, the vibe of the lounge is old-world luxury. Everything is leather, rich, polished mahogany wood, and dim, atmospheric lighting.
The shelves are lined with knickknacks from all over the world. The vibe the space gives off is of being in a very rich and well-traveled person's library. It's hokey, but it works.
The Concourse B lounge I was in is one of six Emirates lounges in DXB alone. It was refurbished two and a half years ago for R153 million and still looks sparkling new.
The lounge spans nearly 10,000 square feet and covers almost the entire second floor of Concourse B. There are maps and signs everywhere so you don't get lost.
The lounge has tons of seating areas, with enough seats to accommodate 1,500 passengers. Coming from lounges that typically top out at 100 or 200 passengers, I was reeling from the size.
Before sitting down with my bags, I double-checked the departure board to make sure I wouldn't miss ... aww, who am I kidding? I got to the lounge four hours before my departure.
In my defense, I had to make sure I got my money's worth out of this experience. I dropped my bags in an armchair, sniffed the fresh rose on the table in front, and set out to explore.
The lounge spans nearly all of the second floor of Concourse B, with seating on either side of the airport, looking down at the economy passengers below.
First, I had to scope out the food situation. The lounge has five main dining stations and three "concept areas." At the top of my list was the Middle Eastern and Western station ...
... where I found a variety of fresh dips like hummus and Muhammara (a hot pepper dip), moussaka (eggplant stew), fattoush (a Lebanese bread salad), Moroccan chicken tagine, lamb stew, and more.
The Western side of the station had dishes like pan-roasted salmon and chili con carne.
Nearby was the Health Hub "concept area" in partnership with Voss Water. The self-service area looks like a futuristic supermarket with sleek, brightly lit counters of chamomile tea, rosemary-watermelon infused water, and fresh fruit.
All of the water bottles in the lounge are Voss. In the Health Hub, they have special versions that have been infused with strawberries or watermelon.
The Health Hub had a selection of fresh sandwiches, salads, and sweet potato chips. I snagged a focaccia sandwich with mozzarella and basil pesto. It was as tasty as if I'd gotten it in an Italian bistro, but I'm not kidding myself about how healthy it was.
I wasn't ready to settle down for dinner yet. I had to survey all of my options. Next up was the Asian section.
It had a variety of Indian dishes like dhokla (fermented batter of chickpeas and rice), chaat (potato, chickpeas, and bread topped with sauces) ...
... and a variety of curries. Dubai has a sizeable Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi population, so I was very confident the South Asian food would be spot on.
There were a few Chinese and Japanese dishes, too. The most interesting to me was fried rice with chopped up okonomiyaki (a savory potato pancake stuffed with seafood or pork).
Onward to the dessert section. There was a selection of tarts and cheesecakes, Middle Eastern desserts like baklava and basbousa ...
... and, my personal favorite, a selection of chocolate mousse truffles and cupcakes. I took a dark chocolate raspberry truffle and had to fight myself to not eat it before I decided on dinner.
To get to the other food stations, I had to cross the concourse to the other side of the terminal, just to give you an idea of how big the lounge is. In the middle of the lounge, there are some open windows so you can watch the chefs work.
After following some signs, I found the Mediterranean section, which was heavy on dips and pita. Honestly, it wasn't that interesting.
I was more intrigued by the Moët & Chandon Champagne lounge behind it. The bartender told me I could try one of four Champagnes: the Moët Impérial, the Moët Rosé Impérial, the Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage and the Moët Nectar Impérial.
I ordered the 2009 Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage — it was delightful.
The last stop was the International station. It was a bit disappointing, primarily because it seemed to be a mix of dishes from all the other stations. I think this area's main purpose was to allow easy access to food for the heavy drinkers: It had a full cocktail bar for those on a liquid diet.
I never pass up fine whiskey. I ordered a glass of Glenfiddich 15-Year Single Malt on the rocks ...
... and then I went back to collect the greatest hits of the food stations. I ended up with the okonomiyaki rice, teriyaki chicken, a fish masala, an Oreo cheesecake, and the aforementioned dark chocolate raspberry truffle. It wasn't Michelin-star food, but it was well made and light-years above what you usually find in a lounge.
With so many seating areas, it was easy enough to find a seat.
After finishing a blog post (rule No. 1 of Business Insider: Always Be Posting), I decided to have a look at the showers.
Though I've been in a lot of airport lounges that include showers, I've never actually showered in one. Today was the day that all changed.
Each shower stall has a dressing area with a package of towels, including a bath sheet, a hand towel, and a bath mat. There's also a cubby for your hand luggage.
The shower head had strong water pressure, though I had to futz with it for a few minutes to get it to the right temperature. I thought it would be weird to shower at an airport, but it wasn't much different than, say, showering at the gym.
The conditioner and shower gel were by Voya, an Irish company that makes organic, luxury bath products. It did not feel cheap.
It was nice to feel fresh before I even got on the plane. As the old saying goes, "A clean business class traveler is a happy business class traveler."
I didn't need to shave, but if I did, the bathroom had shaving kits on hand.
I did need to brush my teeth, however, and fortunately, the lounge had piles of dental kits ready for travelers. The toothbrushes weren't the usual one-time use ones either — they were nice Colgate toothbrush. I'm still using mine.
With time running out before my flight, I started running around to make sure I'd see everything. There's the Timeless Spa, which offers massages, facials, scrubs, and nail treatments. Prices were 441 AED (R1,675) for a one-hour Swedish massage or 331 AED (R1,225) for a manicure.
There was also a shoe shining station, though that'll cost you 26 AED (R97) extra.
No need to go to an airport kiosk or the bookstore for reading material. The lounge has lots of major magazines, though they seemed to be only business and lifestyle-related. No politics magazines over here.
There was also a selection of newspapers from all over the world, including France's Le Monde and the U.K.'s Evening Standard and Daily Mail, among others.
There's a quiet area with full-length loungers for napping. Each one is in its own area blocked off by privacy barriers. They were all taken when I walked by, though.
There are a lot of television areas with seemingly every channel imaginable, where you can sit and watch the game. And by "the game," I mean whatever sport is your fancy. I saw people watch NBA, Premier League, and La Liga.
There's a small business lounge with printers, computers, and a fax machine. I was expecting this to be empty — what business traveler doesn't carry a laptop or tablet? — but there were a few people using it.
I also found a free charging station with lockers so you could charge up your device before take-off.
There's even a branch of Costa Coffee in the lounge serving up coffee drinks and pastries.
Ordering is a slightly strange experience because everything is free. I'm addicted to free stuff. I ordered a cappuccino even though it was 1 a.m. and I really did not need to stay awake much longer.
There's a children's play area, which, though slightly barren, did have my favorite part of the lounge ...
... in the shape of two Mario Kart DX arcade machines, which you can play for free. I am apparently still nine years old, because I spent a solid 20 minutes racing.
There's also a PS4 station, though this one seemed a bit more half-hearted - it's only loaded up with demos. I tried out Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, because, again, I am apparently the main character from the classic Tom Hanks film "Big."
Though the lounge was mostly empty when I arrived, it had filled up considerably by my departure time. Emirates must have a number of red eye flights leaving from DXB.
Before I could get on the plane, which was already boarding, I had to take care of one last thing ...
... and get a cone of ice cream. I opted for the Swiss chocolate and the Raspberry sorbet. Like President Trump, I got two scoops of ice cream, not one.
It was finally time to board. One of the perks of flying Emirates business class is that you board directly from the lounge. That sounds great, until you realize the lounge is the size of the concourse and you have no idea where your gate is or how to find it. Thanks to some helpful lounge attendants, I found it, but I was one of the last to board.
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